The daughter of a Muslim man killed in a terrorist attack in north London has paid a heartfelt and tearful tribute to him on the fifth anniversary of his death.
Speaking at the Finsbury Park Mosque, near where the attack took place, Rozina Akhtar remembered her father, Mukarram Ali, as “one of the most noble people you could ever meet.”
Mr Ali, 51, died when Darren Osborne rammed a rented van outside the Muslim Welfare House on June 19, 2017, shortly after Ramadan evening prayers.
Ms. Akhtar was joined by council and police officials, including Assistant Commissioner for Special Operations Matt Jokes in the Metropolitan Police, to remember her life on Sunday.
Fighting for tears, Akhtar told her: “He was tragically taken away from us five years ago.
“Our father was the first and most important person you could meet, who always had a smile on his face and used to tell jokes at random times to make others laugh.
“He was a compassionate husband, a loving father and a loving grandfather that everyone loved.
“His death has left a black hole, but, remembering his smile and laughter, we surround that hole with more love for each other, just as he wanted.”
Ms Akhtar said that “as a Muslim woman” she wanted everyone to “raise their voice against any Islamophobic behavior because it still exists and should be dealt with immediately”.
Muhammad Kozbar, chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque, told the audience that Islamophobia in Britain was “much worse now than it was five years ago” and that Muslims still did not feel safe.
Mr Kozbar said: “The problem we are facing is that there has not been much change in dealing with Islamophobia since the attack.
“I remember the then Prime Minister Theresa May sitting in this room and promising to take serious steps to deal with this disease which is causing Islamophobia,” he said.
“So far we have no definition of Islamophobia.
“In fact, with the institutionalization of Islamophobia by this government and some sections of the media, it is much worse now than it was five years ago.
We as Muslims are still feeling the effects of this attack and we will not feel safe unless the authorities and the police take Islamophobia seriously.
Tawfiq Kasimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, where the terrorist attack took place, called for tackling the “root cause” of Islamophobia.
Paying tribute to Mr. Ali, he said: “For 20 years, they have always been praying in the same place, and many of us will never forget that terrible night.
“The incident that took his life has left many horrible memories that we will never forget.”
He added: “This incident was trying to divide us but it really brought us together because you can see that five years later we are still together.
“British Muslims still believe that Islam is incompatible with Europe.
“We have to tell them, teach them that Islam is part of the fabric of this society – it’s not a foreign religion that is going anywhere else.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said in a statement on Saturday: “On the fifth anniversary of the horrific terrorist attack in Finsbury Park, we remember Mukarram Ali, who tragically lost his life, and All the innocent citizens of London who were injured after being deliberately targeted. Leaving the mosque after Ramadan prayers.
“Our thoughts are with Mukarram’s family and everyone who was affected by this horrific attack.
London is united against terrorism. We will always cherish and appreciate the incredible diversity of our city.
“Five years ago this senseless attack was an attack on our shared values of openness, freedom and respect.
“But the solidarity shown by all the communities in our city after the attack shows that we will never allow terrorists to divide and win.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson added on Twitter: “Five years after this cowardly act of terrorism, my thoughts are with Mukarram Ali’s family and the victims of the Finsbury Park Mosque attack.
“Freedom of worship and tolerance for different beliefs are fundamental to our values.
“Terrorists will never change our way of life.”
Osborne, from Cardiff, was convicted in February 2018 of a terrorism-related murder and sentenced to life in prison.